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Red Sox’ Rick Porcello is determined to rebound on mound

Jessica Rinaldi/globe staff/File

Rick Porcello led the majors last season in losses (17) and home runs allowed (38).

By Globe Staff 

FORT MYERS, Fla. — From a distance, it sounded as if Rick Porcello was trying to work out a season’s worth of frustration in one sweaty morning.

Every few seconds he would pick up a 40-pound medicine ball and heave it at a cement wall with both hands from a few feet away. The resulting thump echoed across JetBlue Park, causing a few Red Sox teammates to turn around and look.

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The sledgehammer sound effects continued, Porcello seemingly determined to break through the wall before he switched to strapping a sled around his waist and hauling a large pile of weights back and forth.

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The exercises were designed to strengthen his abdominal and leg muscles. If they also helped release some built-up anger, so much the better.

Porcello is clearly driven by a need to solve the problems that led to so much angst last season. A year after winning the Cy Young Award, the righthander was 11-17 with a 4.65 earned run average.

After starting on Opening Day, Porcello dropped steadily down the rotation and was the No. 4 starter in the Division Series against Houston. That he stayed in the rotation was a testament to a lack of better options.

Porcello was second in the majors with 240 hits allowed and first with 38 home runs allowed. He put 284 men on base over 203 innings.

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“I’ve thought about it a lot obviously,” Porcello said Thursday. “I need to draw from the things that I didn’t do well and make the proper adjustments. But at the same time, you have to have a short memory.”

Still, Porcello waited a bit before fully turning the page. He went back and watched his starts, going pitch-by-pitch to examine what went wrong. He also consulted with two of the team’s advance scouts, Steve Langone and J.T. Watkins, to get their feedback.

New pitching coach Dana LeVangie offered his opinions, too. It was a full-scale autopsy.

“I didn’t want to leave any stones unturned as far as the reason for the amount of home runs that I gave up and the other things that went wrong,” Porcello said. “I took the information, processed it, and came up with a game plan for this season.”

That Porcello allowed 24 earned runs on 22 extra-base hits in the first inning over 33 starts was one problem he pondered. He plans to change his routine with more work in the bullpen before the first inning.

Everything ultimately hinges on location and being able to throw his fastball and sinker in distinctly different locations. Those pitches were too often in the same spot, the fastball too low and the sinker too high. Opponents had a .498 slugging percentage as a result.

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“Location was the major problem I had to fix. I fell into some patterns with sequencing, too,” Porcello said. “I feel back on what worked in the past. I need to spice it up.

“I wasn’t giving us a chance to win and I take that personally. Too many balls were hit hard. I feel good about what I’ve done and what I’ve learned.”

Porcello has two years and $42 million remaining on his contract. But like everyone in baseball, he has taken notice of the unusually stagnant market for free agents. With spring training starting next week, dozens of viable players remain unsigned.

“The bottom line is you grow up thinking about the big leagues and being one of the best 750 players in the world. My biggest concern is going into the season and not having the opportunity to compete against the best guys in the world,” Porcello said.

“Right now, that’s not happening and that’s disappointing.”

Porcello chose diplomacy when asked about the Red Sox so far failing to improve their roster.

“That’s not for me to say. My focus is on getting ready for the season,” he said.

Porcello is one of approximately 20 players who have been working out at Fenway South. Rotation mates Drew Pomeranz, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Chris Sale were all on the field with him on Thursday.

New manager Alex Cora — “He’s been great,” Porcello said — took charge of the infielders, hitting them ground balls on a practice field. The group included Rafael Devers, Tzu-Wei Lin, Deven Marrero, Blake Swihart, and Sam Travis.

.   .   .

Triple A Pawtucket catcher Jake Romanski was suspended for 100 games after testing positive for amphetamines for the second time in 14 months. Romanski lost his invitation to major league spring training but will be able to attend minor league camp. Romanski, 27, has been with the Sox for five seasons but has yet to play a major league game . . . Outfielder Steve Selsky, 28, was signed to a minor league contract and invited to spring training. He appeared in eight games for the Red Sox last season, all in April, and was 1 for 9. He hit .215 in 79 games for Pawtucket.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.